A 1993 Oldsmobile 98 Regency Elite with just 1,900 miles will cross the block at Mecum in Kissimmee, Florida later this week, and it’s the most pristine example of the last gasp of 20th century American luxury you’re likely to see anytime soon.
This particular example has belonged to one owner for the entirety of its life; unsurprisingly, that owner happens to be a General Motors employee. Unlike the sportier, supercharged Touring trim, the cushier Regency models had a naturally-aspirated 3800 V6 with 170 horsepower and 220 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy was rated at 19 MPG city, 27 highway by the EPA. Leather upholstery, air conditioning and Twilight Sentinel — GM’s wonderfully bombastic name for its automatic headlight system — were among the only options added. The sticker shows an MSRP of $28,859. That’s $55,510 in today’s money.
Unlike a fair chunk of the Jalopnik staff, I have no Michigan ties. I grew up on Long Island and, for better or worse, mine was a Chrysler family. This 98 and I are the same age. I offer all this context to explain why this car wouldn’t have struck me any way at all as a kid. But we’re both so much older now, and this one’s showroom fresh. It has me wondering: do I like Oldsmobiles now?
The lean, slightly tapered profile. The massive greenhouse. The wheel spats — hell yes, the spats. And that cheese-grater grille. In today’s era of grille design excess, the 98’s is surprisingly unique, paradoxically restrained but impactful. You’d never see mudflaps like these on a modern luxury sedan, either— at least ones quite so floppy — but the Olds pulls it off. It took me almost 29 years to notice it, but this is a pretty car.
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The blue of the exterior bleeds into the cabin, where it paints literally everything — the leather upholstery, the dash, even the door cards — in a murky shade of marine. This was the audacity of the ’90s — bathing everything in a dark, robust hue, contrast be damned. The center stack, with its myriad chiclet buttons, are pointed toward the ceiling for some reason. MotorWeek’s John Davis found them “too busy” back in ’91. I’m inclined to agree from the images.
(And you should definitely watch that MotorWeek review, because few sights melt away stress quicker than watching a big old American sedan slosh itself through a cone slalom.)
Every day there’s another impossibly clean example of a beloved classic performance car popping up on BaT or whatever, but these days my ears perk up when entirely forgettable cars from my youth hit the block. You forget how often you’d see them on the road, and how the layers of dirt and rust marred what were actually otherwise elegant machines. This Olds doesn’t need to go for $50K or anything, but I appreciate that it’s getting its day in the sun this week — in the Sunshine State, no less.